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Attention-dependent suppression of distracter visual input can be cross-modally cued as indexed by anticipatory parieto-occipital alpha-band oscillations.
Recent studies show that in addition to enhancing neural processing for attentionally relevant stimuli, selective attention also operates by suppressing the processing of distracter stimuli. When subjects are pre-cued to selectively deploy attention during voluntary (endogenous) attentional tasks, these mechanisms can be set up in advance of actual stimulus processing. That is, the brain can be placed in a biased attentional state. Two recent cueing studies have provided evidence for the deployment of such biased attentional states [J.J. Foxe, G.V. Simpson, S.P. Ahlfors, Neuroreport 9 (1998) 3929-3933; M.S. Worden, J.J. Foxe, N. Wang, G.V. Simpson, J. Neurosci. 20:RC63 (2000) 1-6]. Specifically, these studies implicated oscillatory activity in the alpha frequency-band (8-14 Hz) as an anticipatory mechanism for suppressing distracter visual stimulation. The current study extends these findings by showing that this alpha-suppressive effect is also invoked by cross-modal cues. Auditory symbolic cues were used in an intermodal attention task, to direct subjects' attention to a subsequent task in either the visual or auditory modality. Cueing attention to the auditory features of the imminent task stimuli resulted in significantly higher parieto-occipital alpha amplitude in the period preceding onset of this stimulus than when attention was cued to the visual features. Topographic mapping suggests that this effect is generated in regions of the inferior parietal cortex, areas that have been repeatedly implicated in the engagement and maintenance of visual attention. Taken together, the results of this series of studies suggest that these parietal regions are capable of integrating sensory cues from multiple sensory modalities in order to program the subsequent deployment of visual attention.
Acoustic Stimulation, Adult, Alpha Rhythm, Attention/physiology, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Occipital Lobe/physiology, Parietal Lobe/physiology, Photic Stimulation
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